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Diversity and Inclusion

Start a diversity and inclusion mentorship program: A guide

Employees from diverse backgrounds stand to gain a lot from mentorship. And research shows that when workplaces offer formal mentoring programs, 3/4's of diverse or minority employees opt-in. Organizations should take note. Achieving diversity doesn't start and stop at equal numbers. To meaningfully support diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace, organizations should start formal mentoring programs. This guide will show you how.

Ryan Carruthers

November 24, 2021

A diverse and inclusive workplace holds a number of advantages for organizations. From improving innovation to generating larger revenues for your company, it definitely gives you an edge over the competition when you have a diverse team. But how to move from a business objective that states diversity is one of your company goals to putting it into practice may not always be clear. That is where mentorship programs can help. 

Your diverse employees have a lot to gain from mentorship. Research has found that it can increase the confidence and satisfaction women and minorities feel from their jobs. Moreover, one study found that 74 percent of minorities participate in mentoring programs when they are offered. And 32 percent stated their mentoring relationship was “extremely important” to them. There’s clearly a lot of demand for mentoring among diverse employees.


Why diverse and minority employees need mentorship

There can be a lot of challenges for minorities in the workplace, such as barriers to growth and development. Having a mentorship program can help women and other minorities overcome these obstacles to advancement. Diversity mentoring programs do this in several ways, such as:

  • Provide support. Minority employees can get support and encouragement from their mentors. Employees that may be battling inclusivity issues can benefit by knowing they have someone cheering them on. 
  • A listening ear. Employees that have mentors benefit from having an outlet to voice concerns or solve problems. Sometimes having someone to talk to can really help. 
  • Team player. A mentorship can create a feeling of connection among employees. For minorities, it can help them feel like part of the team.   
  • Visibility. It can sometimes feel like minority employees are overlooked. A workplace mentor can help combat those feelings and increase the visibility of employees for leadership opportunities.
  • Development. Mentees thrive by learning new skills through a mentor’s knowledge and expertise.


The benefits of a diversity mentorship program 

Diversity mentoring programs hold several advantages for organizations as well as employees. Here are just a few reasons to consider inclusive mentorships. 

  • Belonging. Mentorship programs designed to improve diversity can have a positive impact on company culture. They also create a sense of belonging and inclusion for employees. 
  • Increases talent. Inclusive mentors can help employees develop their skills and capabilities. In turn, this expands the talent pool that your organization has to draw on. 
  • Innovation. Statistics show that companies with a diverse employee base saw 19 percent higher innovation revenues. In short, companies with higher levels of diversity benefit from different perspectives. 
  • Revenue. Research has found that companies with racial and ethnic diversity perform better in the marketplace. They earn 35 percent more than the industry average. Furthermore, companies with gender diversity earned around 15 percent more than the industry average.


Types of diverse mentorship programs

When developing a diversity mentorship program, you can select from different models or types. Some of the best types of mentoring programs for diversity and inclusion include:

  • Reverse mentoring. In this scenario, the traditional 1-on-1 mentorship is flipped. That is, the more senior employee is the mentee, learning from the more junior employee. This style is best giving those already in leadership positions a new perspective.
  • Sponsorship. When a mentee wants to further their career, sponsorship may be the best fit. In this relationship, a mentor can use their authority or influence to advance the career of the mentee. For example, recommend the mentee for a promotion or facilitate a career move through their connections and seniority in the company. 
  • Employee resource groups. ERGs are a safe place where minority or diverse employees can build community with others like them. These are spaces where they can voice concerns. It is also an excellent resource for building connection and solidarity.

Examples of companies running diverse mentorship programs

There are some great examples of organizations putting diverse mentoring into practice. Here are just a few. 

Avison Young’s Women In Leadership mentoring program

A multinational commercial real estate firm, Avison, has been launching mentorship programs designed to create a more diverse leadership team. They’ve created a mentoring program that is open to members of their Women’s Network. 

New York Life’s ERG to prime diverse talent for succession

Employee resource groups at New York Life are creating opportunities for minority employees. Many pairings are made between participants from similar backgrounds and experiences. This creates a more impactful experience. 

King Games supported their women in the video game industry with their ERG mentorship program

King Games, the creators of Candy Crush, opened a mentorship program to provide opportunities to every member of their employee resource groups. They called it Kicking Glass. They created over 250 matches, and the feedback was phenomenal. The majority of participants ranked the program 3.9 out of 4. 

Mailshake’s mentorship program to support new employees from diverse backgrounds

Email automation business Mailshake increased the number of women applying for engineering positions at their company. They also created a more level playing field in their executive team, with half being from a diverse background. 

Building a diverse mentoring program at your organization is possible, and there are so many reasons to do so.


How to build a diversity mentorship program

If your organization is ready to build a diversity mentorship program, here are the steps you can take to make it happen. 

Choose a goal for the program and communicate it with participants

A mentorship program should always have a goal or objective. When considering inclusive mentorships, find out what the aim is for your diverse employees. Do they want more of a voice in the company? Are they looking for better access to leadership positions? Do they want to build a community at work?  Ask them what is important to them and where they see the challenges in your organization. Then use that insight to design your mentoring program.

Train mentors

Inclusive mentors will need some extra guidance. You’ll want to have a mix of mentors from similar backgrounds as mentees and some that are not. This diversity is a great experience for participants. Be sure that you train mentors on topics like prejudice or unconscious bias. Likewise, provide them with resources about empathy in the workplace. Arming mentors with insight into how their role as a mentor supports diversity and inclusion creates a more fulfilling experience. 

Pair up employees 

The pairing process is one of the key elements of good mentorship. Getting a good mentor match can take a little effort. You’ll need to determine who will be matched with whom. However, there are some considerations when developing a diversity and inclusion mentoring program. These include:

  • Make matching an opt-in process, so employees have a choice. You don’t want to force them to participate because they're diverse employees. 
  • Ensure that the mentor has the skills or experiences that the new employee wants.
  • It’s important that there be some common ground between the mentor and mentee. These can be communication styles, career background, or even hobbies and interests. 
  • Check with participants to see that their expectations for the mentoring relationship are similar. Having this understanding is a good start to building a successful mentor relationship. 
  • Allow participants to have a say in the process. Perhaps a mentee could select their match from a handful of potential mentors.
  • If the match is not successful, have a simple process that allows participants to end the mentorship.

These are important considerations. But it can be challenging to keep them in mind for every mentor-mentee match. For that reason, Together’s pairing algorithm quickly weighs all the goals, experiences, and preferences of mentees to serve them up with a list of the most relevant mentors for them. It’s an efficient way for mentorship program managers to pair up all employees while still having the ability to make a manual match if they choose to.

Provide discussion topics and resources

It’s important to help cultivate a connection between a mentor and mentee. You can do this by offering them resources to help them. These can be articles, TED talks, discussion topics or sample questions. At Together, we provide template agendas on our mentoring platform. They can help guide mentors and mentees through the experience, including setting goals and providing feedback. 

Encourage mentors to create development plans with employees that can serve as a framework for their relationship. Our mentoring programs encourage participants to develop a mentoring agreement. This is how they can come to an agreement on issues like when they will meet or how they’ll prepare for each session. It can also set expectations for a mentor or mentee, such as who will ask questions and what they expect to learn. 

Check-in with participants and get feedback

Getting feedback from participants is essential. You’ll want to know if your program is resonating with minority employees. Asking them for feedback will help you determine what is working and what is not. Moreover, you can also solve issues that come up during mentorships, such as a poor pairing that needs a rematch. 

Reporting

Keeping your executives and senior leaders committed to diversity mentoring depends on demonstrating the effectiveness of your program. This means you’ll need to report on some key metrics. 

Some of the best information to track and include in your reports are: 

  • Signups. How many people are interested in being a part of a diverse mentoring experience at your organization? 
  • Mentee and mentor goals. Follow the progress mentees make towards their goals. Is the experience helping them get where they want to go?
  • Anecdotal feedback. Check-in with participants to find out how they are feeling about the experience. 
  • Session feedback. Encourage mentors and mentees to send some feedback after each session. These micro-bits of information can provide insights into the program. 
  • Business outcomes. It’s essential to provide some statistical information about your program to company leadership. These metrics can help them see the impact the program is having. 

Creating these reports can be difficult without some kind of platform that tracks all the mentoring sessions and feedback. Together provides robust reporting tools to give mentorship program managers insight into the performance of their program.

Not only are the reports great for informing managers how they can improve the program, but they can also be used to support the business case for a mentoring program.

Using software to run your mentorship program

Running a diversity mentoring program can help your organization achieve its diversity and inclusivity goals, enhance employee innovation, and lead to higher revenues.

Together awarded for best ease of use by Capterra

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are crucial, and running your mentoring program manually can be a hindrance to its success. 

To start a mentoring program with ease consider using Together's mentoring platform. We've won awards for our easy-to-use tools that speed up the pairing process from weeks to minutes.

With Together’s mentoring software, you can build inclusive mentoring programs that help everyone in your organization feel they belong and contribute to your success.

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